What is biodiversity?

Why are we hearing about it now so much? It’s protection and conservation are a current GLOBAL issue. We are all effecting and affected by Biodiversity. We are part of it so let’s protect it…


Biodiversity comes from two words ‘Biological diversity’ meaning the variability among living organisms from all sources ‘inter alai’/among other things including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems’. Convention on Biological Diversity 1992.

Sligo’s Biodiversity

Since Auriel set up her business in Heritage and Tourism in Sligo in 2013, she has been observing, noticing, learning about, recording and bringing her customers attention to the natural environment, eco- systems, and ecology on her trails. While you are out with her, she could be pointing to a Brent goose picking on the Sligo shores, a dog violet,  a Skylark hovering over-head in the sand dunes,  a banded or dark lipped snail in the sand, a red-tailed bumble or honey bee pollinating wild flora in the dunes or a rare bee orchid amongst in marram grass!

The side of Benbulben mountain with stream

You might spot some biodiversity yourselves along the way. Sligo’s coastline is awash with nature, particularly in the vast sand dunes, most of which are now Special Protected Areas (SPA), Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Natural Heritage Areas (NHA). The Sligo upland regions are also full of nature, nestled within scrub, heather, bogs and fen, on lakes and inland waterways. Even the countryside surrounding you is teeming with nature, be is domestic or wild animals, fish or birds!

The side of Benbulben mountain with stream

A SPA is a designation of a particular area under the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. An example of a bird you might find in Sligo within a SPA would be the Brent or Barnacle Goose. There is a huge variety of coastal birds alone which frequent the Sligo islands, dunes, shores of estuaries, and up river which are part of our National Biodiversity Map. E.g. Plovers, Godwits, Terns, Kestrels, Curlews, Oyster Catchers, Water Hens, Swans, Ducks, Merlin, Storm Petrel.

The side of Benbulben mountain with stream

Photo credit: Michael Bell, Nature Learn

A SAC is a wildlife conservation area within a country which is important on a European and Irish level. Most Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are in the countryside. These areas are designated under the EU Habitats Directive.  An example of an upland SAC in Sligo is the ‘Dartry Mountains’ on the border between Counties of Sligo and Leitrim. This SAC has been designated as the ‘Benbulben, Gleniff and Glenade Complex SAC’. The Bricklieve Mountains are also a SAC.  This vast and beautiful area is noted for its rare marsh fritillary butterfly.

The side of Benbulben mountain with stream

A NHA is a ‘Natural Heritage Area’ that allows for the designation for wildlife within a particular area of importance. Geological areas of interest may be designated too, where there are certain fossils in karst limestone. Bogs are also havens for wild habitats and biodiversity. Have a look at our Irish Turf and Bogs page to learn more about these and see how these vast areas of Ireland have been used in the past since ancient times! Woodland may be a part of your trail and you would expect to find mushrooms and fungus peeping through the mosses and woodland undergrowth in September or October. Auriel will also point these out to you and she organises ‘mushroom trails’ led by a local expert in the Autumn. These trails will be posted on her events page over the coming months.

The side of Benbulben mountain with stream

One of the main integral parts of the coastal and mountainous trails offered by Auriel at Seatrails is the natural environment where you can enjoy and learn about this unique Irish Biodiversity in Sligo.

The side of Benbulben mountain with stream
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